Early retinal changes in glaucoma identified

12 February 2015

New insight has been found about the early stages of glaucoma, which could help the many people who go blind from the condition.

Glaucoma, which is the second biggest cause of blindness, is usually started from growing pressure on the eye. This elevated force damages and destroys the essential retinal ganglion cells the eye needs to see. 

Now a team at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Shiley Eye Institute have found how some types of retinal ganglion cells are able to change their structures within seven days of elevated eye pressure, while others do not.

Published in the Journal of Neuroscience, their study used a model in the laboratory to examine four subtypes of retinal ganglion cells. The cell types differ by their location in the eye and where they send the majority of their dendrites (cellular branches). 

Within seven days of elevated eye pressure, all retinal ganglion cells that send most or all of their dendrites to the OFF sublamina area of the eye experienced significant rearrangements, such as reductions in number and length of dendritic branches. In contrast, retinal ganglion cells with connections in the ON part of the retina did not.

Posted by Philip Briggs

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